Otago 'probably 80%' there regarding selection

Rob Walter
Rob Walter
There is one question Otago will have pondered more than any other this winter - how does it score more runs?

The Volts top order really struggled in the long format last season. Batting bonus points were as hard to come by as a plastic bag at a Green Party conference.

But the team has drafted in some help in the form of promising South African-born all-rounder Dean Foxcroft, accomplished one-dayer player Nick Kelly and young gun Dale Phillips.

Neil Broom has also returned to red-ball cricket after retiring from the format last season.

That said, it is unclear who will bat at No3 and an opening spot is up for grabs as well.

The Volts open their Plunket Shield campaign with a match against Wellington at the Basin Reserve next week.

The team has been training in Alexandra for the past two weeks and will complete its preparations for the first-class competition while in Queenstown this week.

''We've spent a long time in the nets and want to get out and play a bit,'' coach Rob Walter said.

''Everyone is available for selection, so it is a race for the starting XI.''

Walter will name the side on Friday after a final check-in with the medical team.

''We are probably 80% there. But I've learned not to pen the team in too early because things can happen in the week prior to the game.

''But we have a fairly good idea of the make-up of our starting side other than one or two spots here and there.''

Those spots are at the top of the order. You can ink in Hamish Rutherford for an opening spot but Camden Hawkins is not necessarily a lock-in to join him despite making solid progress in his debut season.

Walter confirmed Neil Broom will bat at No4 and Foxcroft at No 5. That means the likes of Kelly, Phillips and Hawkins will compete for the other two spots in the top five.

''We still need to make a decision on who will bat at No1 and No3. We have a few options there.''

Otago has finished last in the Plunket Shield in two of the past three seasons. While New Zealand Cricket has put its stock in the shorter formats, first-class cricket remains a priority for Walter.

''For me the focus has been on improving our four-day play. We've really let ourselves down in the past couple of years.

''The numbers shouldn't have been as they have and a lot of that comes down to our batting.

''To get to the last three games of the season and to have only put one batting bonus point on the board is not good enough in any situation.

''We are pretty real and pretty honest about that.

''We ended up scoring seven bonus points in the last three games, so we did get an understanding of what we are capable of.''

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